Iwona's Sources - Education in the Grand Duchy of Poznań
Schools and Education in the Grand Duchy of Poznań
In the 19th century the region of Prussia differed greatly from the other partitions as regards education. In Silesia, for example, where there were no Poles of the noble or middle classes, elementary education was on the level of medieval programs. A somewhat better situation prevailed in the territory of the Grand Duchy of Poznań, where a law on elementary schools had been in force since 1763.
The Polish people was strongly connected to their parish communities, and schools existed mainly near Catholic and Lutheran parish churches. Their program covered only the basics, such as reading, writing, arithmetic, and church singing. From the very beginning of the Prussian partition’s existence, there was universal and obligatory teaching of the German language.
1815 – 1830: A Time of Liberalism
The Prussian minister of education stated that Germanization was unworkable and that religion and language are "a people’s dearest and most sacred things."? The Polish language was used for lectures, and German was a second subject. The effects of education were generally minor, due mainly to a lack of teachers and the people’s reluctance.
The Germanizing element was a limiting factor on the number of middle schools, as opposed to the construction of elementary schools. The lowest social classes were simply more open to Germanizing influences. In 1819 in the territory of the Grand Duchy of Poznań there were a total of 987 szkoły ludowe ["people’s'? schools, i. e., elementary]: 416 Polish, and 561 German.
1831 – 1840: First Wave of Germanization
The November 1831 Uprising caused an intensification of the Germanizing process. The Prussian authorities followed the example of the Russian government, which immediately introduced restrictive regulations in education. The center of interest was the gimnazjum [middle school, comparable to a junior high school in the American system], where they began to inculcate in students ideas about the superiority of German culture.
As a result the number of hours of German was raised, while at the same time the number of Polish teachers was lowered.
1831 – 1840: Unstable Education Policy
King Friedrich Wilhelm ordered his education ministers to teach the Polish language in schools, with German as a separate, required subject. Two years later more liberal instructions were issued: the German language was compulsory in schools in town, whereas in the villages only Polish could be used in the lower grades.
In the next decade the Polish language became the universal language in schools. The goal of education was to wipe out illiteracy. At the same time more and more German schools were opened.
This was a time favorable toward the development of culture and education. In the Grand Duchy of Poznań there were 1,800 people’s schools, and 1,000 of them were Catholic and exclusively Polish. Teaching the history of Poland was permitted, and teaching was done in the Polish language.
From the 1860s on the Prussian authorities began to introduce an anti-Polish policy. The Polish language was banned from schools, with the exception of the first grade, where it could be used as an auxiliary language, but only in the teaching of religion. The position of religious schools was strengthened, as was the role of the clergy as elementary school authorities.
1871 – 1915: Prussian Extermination of Poles
Otto Bismarck, chancellor of the German Reich, had an absolute influence on affairs within Prussia, and that included education. He designated a new direction in education, and criticized Polish clergy’s supervision of elementary schools. He felt that the cleric took advantage of his position to "un-Germanize"? young people, or not let them be Germanized in the first place.
The new minister of education obeyed the chancellor’s orders and changed the previous direction of education in Prussia. He put the clergy under state authority, made German the language in which classes were to be conducted, increased supervision over public and private schools, and systematically limited the rights of the Polish language. Polish surnames and place names were Germanized.
The program in single-class people’s schools was limited to: religion, the German language, arithmetic, geometry, drawing, singing, and gymnastics. In gimnazjum schools the following were also taught: Latin, Greek, French, history, geography, physics, and calligraphy. The Polish language could be used only in extracurricular activities, at outings and at play. Teachers who conducted private classes in Polish had to get permission to do so from the authorities, which was virtually impossible.
Visits to schools by government inspectors were intensified. The first reports of these inspection visits from 1872 and 1873 told of complete ignorance of the German language. 1885 inspections of the elementary school in Kórnik had similar results: the children memorized German but did not understand it at all.
In 1886 the Prussian authorities conducted a campaign to transfer Polish teachers into the heart of Germany (by the end of the year 68 teachers had been transferred). From that time on teachers’ appointment to positions depended exclusively on the authorities, and not on local government. 1887 brought even more restrictive regulations: the Polish language was banned completely. The only subject that could be taught in Polish was religion. The Polish people accepted Germanization peacefully up to the moment when the Polish language was taken away from the children during religious instruction.
As a result, ever greater numbers of conspiratorial schools and secret education unions sprang up. Inflicting punishment had a reverse effect: Poles began to revolt openly. A wave of school strikes began. The first famous rebellion took place in Września in 1901, when the children were handed catechisms in German. The parents protested and gave back the catechisms. Things went so far as collective whippings. The police tried to disperse over 1,000 protestors. The affair ended up in court, with some 200 persons sentenced to prison.
In 1906 there were about 150 criminal trials as a result of school strikes. In general the wave of strikes did not produce the expected results, and the education system in the Prussian partition did not change, except for insignificant minor concessions. The Polish language did not return to schools until after independence was regained in 1918.
Schools in the Duchy of Posen (Poznań)
Selected Records are available at the Poznań Branch of the State Archives:
1. Elementary schools:
Biała (Bydgoszcz) 1866
Budziszewko (Oborniki) 1927-1937
Długie Nowe 1888-1938
Dolsk (Śrem) 1881-1916
Górka Duchowna 1875-1938
Janków Dolny 1930-1931
Karmin (Pleszew) 1928-1938
Klonowiec (Leszno) 1925-1926
Konin 1864 -1865
Kurów (Grodzisk) 1889-1914
Miaskowo (Kościan) 1899-1926
Nowy Tomyśl 1933-1937
Odolanów (Ostrów) 1880-1918
Osieczna (Leszno) 1932-1939
Piaski (Kępno) 1895-1938
Polska Wieś (Gniezno ) 1932-1935
Przygodzice (Ostrów) 1847-1933
Ptaszków (Nowy Tomyśl) 1938
Rojewo (Grodzisk) 1880-1928
Skrzynka Wielka (Słupsk) 1852-1876
Sworzyce (Nowy Tomyśl) 1875-1929
Strzałkowo (Września) 1928-1938
Szczury (Ostrów) 1836-1853
Trzcianka (Nowy Tomyśl) 1881-1935
Trzebin (Krotoszyn) 1904-1931
Wilkowice (Leszno) 1908-1938
Zębów (Lipno) 1867-1868
Zdziechów (Gniezno) 1933-1939
Certificates from all schools 1815-1939
Chronicles from all schools 1800-1956
Catholic school 1932-1936
Parish school 1830
Private school, Belov-Knothe 1934-1936
Public school, H. Kołłątaj 1873-1956
Public school No. 28, 1933-1939
Public school, Pestalozzi 1929-1939
Public school 1918-1935
Public school, Kopernik 1930-1934
2. Selected Pre-1920 High School Records
Dąbie (Koło) 1918-1928
Paradyż - Royal School for Teachers 1797-1906
Poznań, Bergera school 1890, 1919-1949
Poznań, E. Sczaniecka school 1901-1933
Poznań, K. Libelt school 1901-1938
Poznań, Fundacja Ludwiki 1829-1919
Poznań, Jarogniew school 1871-1936
Poznań, Królowa Jadwiga school 1879-1939
Poznań, Działyński School for girls 1867-1934
Poznań, Belov Knothe girls’ school 1900-1936
Poznań, St. Maria Magdalena School for girls 1803-1938
Poznań, provincial teachers’ schools 1797-1947
Poznań, Fryderyk Wilhelm Gimnazjum 1834-1920
[For more information, use the Sezam database on the Polish State Archives website,
http://www.archiwa.gov.pl/?CIDA=376. Under "Category"? choose "Instytucje nauki i oświaty."?]
Michał Janik: Dzieje szkolnictwa polskiego Stefan Truchim: Historia szkolnictwa I oświaty polskiej w Wielkim Księstwie Poznańskim Stefan Wołoszyn: Źródła do dziejów wychowania i myśli pedagogicznej.
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Last Updated on January 15, 2012